PRESS: Groups Protest Violence Against Anti-Mining Activists
New Delhi: Protesting against the state-sponsored violence against
indigenous and dalit peoples in Orissa to facilitate the entry of
mining companies into bauxite rich forest lands, members of Orissa-based
struggle group Prakrutik Sampada Surakshya Parishad (PSSP), along
with New Delhi-based youth and human rights activists, writers and
intellectuals today submitted a memorandum to the Resident Commissioner
of Orissa after a peaceful demonstration in front of the Orissa Bhavan
in New Delhi this morning. The memorandum demanded the immediate and
unconditional release of 18 PSSP members who have been illegally arrested
since December 2004 and to stop the human rights abuses by the state
police on the villagers around Kashipur who have been for years peacefully
resisted the moves by bauxite mining consortium Utkal Alumina International
Ltd (UAIL) to take over their land and forests for a 100% export oriented
alumina mining and refinery project.
The Rs 4500 crore UAIL is a joint venture of Indian company HINDALCO
(55% share) and Canadian company ALCAN (45%). TATA, HYDRO (Norwegian)
and ALCOA (America) who were earlier part of the venture, were forced
to withdraw from the project due to the mass struggle and opposition
by the villagers. The project will source bauxite from a 195 million
ton deposit in Baphli Mali, a sacred hill for the adivasis. The promoters
also plan to set up an alumina refinery near Kucheipadar, from where
it will be exported. At the refinery's capacity of consuming 9 million
tones of bauxite per year, the Baphlimali deposit will be exhausted
within two decades.
The mines and refinery are slotted to come up in adivasi-majority
areas that are protected by the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution.
The Fifth Schedule guarantees the right of land to adivasis, and prohibits
the transfer of these lands to non-tribals for any purpose. "The Government
of Orissa is in the hands of the mining companies. Since early December,
the Government has unleashed a reign of terror in the villages near
the proposed mining project, and is keen on evicting the people at
gun-point," said Rabi Shankar of PSSP.
On November 25, 2004 Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik was quoted
as saying that anti-mining struggles will be firmly dealt with. From
late November, villages that are protesting the Utkal Alumina project
proposed on their lands have been under siege by the police.
On December 1st , 2004, the state police launched a brutal lathi charge
on 400 adivasis, mostly women, who had gathered to protest the inauguration
of a road to a proposed bauxite-mining site in Baphlimali owned by
ALCAN. As a result, 16 people were critically injured and three women
were beaten unconscious. Since this incident, platoons of armed police
with firing orders have occupied Kucheipadar village - the center
of the adivasi struggle. Eighteen activists of PSSP, the umbrella
organization of adivasis spearheading the struggle against bauxite
mining have been picked up from their villages mostly in the night
in separate incidents and are now in jail without access to bail.
"This is not the first time that adivasis of Kashipur are facing such
state repression and police brutality," said Rabi Shankar. On December
16, 2000, three adivasis were killed in Kashipur when police fired
on unarmed villagers associated with the people's struggle against
bauxite mining. Following international outrage at the incident, one
of UAIL's original stakeholders, Norsk Hydro of Norway, withdrew from
the project in a move that clearly implicated both the UAIL and the
The situation in rest of Orissa is not very different. As many as
five bauxite mining and alumina projects are in the pipeline, covering
5 blocks of 3 districts -- Kashipur ( Rayagada district) , Luxmipur
and Dasamantpur( Koraput), Lanjigada and Thuamulrampur (Kalahandi).
Sterlite is proposed to source bauxite from Sasubohu mali of Kashipur
block. Larson and Tubro from Sijimali and Kutrumali ( Kashipur block),
Birla from Kodinga Mali ( Luxmipur block) and Vedanta from Niyamgiri
and Khandual mali of Kalahandi district.
"The total investment in the Orissa bauxite projects is to the tune
of Rs 20,000 crores. Taking into consideration the present price of
even just UAIL, the joint venture will reap a profit of at least Rs
2,88,000 crore during the 22-23 years of the project life, whereas
the government will get Rs. 1300-1400 crores as royalty during that
period. And the adivasis and dalits of these villages will get state
repression, and a lifetime of misery and slum life," added Ranjana
Padhi of Saheli Women's Resource Centre, Delhi, a group supporting
the Kashipur peoples' struggle.
For more information, contact:
Ranjana Padhi 9811150884
Harish Dhawan 9811667776
Visit: "Alcan't In India" http://www.saanet.org/alcant
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